If you’re like most Americans, you spend an average of 13 hours a day sitting. Plugging away at our desks, in our cars, in movies, and at the dinner table — we’re sitting more often than we think.
So it’s no surprise then when you get into bed at the end of the day if you feel restless and unable to relax. Your muscles need activity for proper circulation and health, and if you’re sitting hunched at your computer, or stressed out in traffic, your aching muscles will need some help at the end of the day to relax.
Stretching before bed is one of the best ways to release that built up tension and get the best night’s sleep you’ve had in a while. Most people know to stretch before and after exercise, or in the morning to energize themselves, but there’s actually a ton of reasons to stretch before bed as well.
Benefits of Stretching Before Bed
So why exactly is stretching before bed so helpful for sleep? In addition to getting regular exercise, stretching offers many perks for your body and mind.
For starters, developing an evening stretching routine helps your body to enter a relaxed state more quickly, and stay in a deeper sleep for longer. With fewer points of pain along your back, neck, and shoulders, you’re less likely to toss and turn. This is great for your sleep — and your partner’s sleep, too.
Stretching provides a great alternative nighttime activity to scrolling through social media or reading emails on a screen. When done correctly, studies have shown that practices like yoga and stretching can be incredibly relaxing and meditative. Focusing on your body and the present actions can be a great way to separate yourself from the day’s stresses and signal to your subconscious to stop worrying.
For those more concerned with their beauty sleep, there have been studies that demonstrate that regular mindful stretching actually reduces signs of aging. Since stress has been proven to affect aging on a cellular level, stretching before bed can reduce stress and actually keep you looking younger, for longer.
For some great stretching routine that will relax your whole body, check out these stretches:
1. Knee to Chest
Laying on your back on your floor or mattress, lift and bend one leg. Then place both of your hands on your knees, and gently bring it to your chest. Try to remain as relaxed as possible, and hold for a few seconds. Then repeat on the other side. If one leg at a time is comfortable for you, you can also try bring both knees to your chest at one time.
Great for: This stretch helps you achieve great spinal flexion and is wonderful for aching lower backs.
2. Spinal Twist
Laying on your back, extend both arms out from your sides. Lift your right leg and place your right foot on the floor. Slowly cross your right leg over the left side of your body and allow it to fall naturally towards the floor. You may use your left hand to hold your knee, but there is no need to press your knee further than natural. For a deeper twist, turn your head to the right. Breath in and out as you feel your spine relax. Repeat on the other side.
Great for: Helping spinal mobility and improving a hunched posture from working over a desk all day.
3. Side Stretch
Seated either with legs crossed or on your heels, extend your left arm above your head. Place your right arm on the floor and lean your body to the right, keeping your left arm above your ear. You should feel the stretch in your left side. Repeat on the other side.
Great for: Stretches your obliques, spine, and strengthens your core for a stronger spine.
From a standing or kneeling position, place one foot in front of the other and come into a lunge. Allow your opposite knee to support some of your weight. Concentrate on keeping your spine straight and chest open, then repeat on the other side.
Good for: Stretching your glutes, hamstrings, and hip flexors. This is a great stretch for people sitting all day and runners alike.
5. Butterfly Pose
Sitting on the floor with your legs straight in front of you, bring the soles of your feet together. Bring your feet towards your body as you lean forward, keeping your spine as straight as possible. Rest in this pose for a few moments to deepen the stretch.
Great for: Stretching your inner thighs and lower back.
6. Child’s Pose
Start on your arms and knees, sit back onto your heels while leaving your arms extended in front of you. Make sure your knees are at least hip-width apart. Focus on keeping your spine long and lengthened. Walk your hands forward until you are nearly flat on the ground, and then relax your head to the floor. Relax in this position. If your shoulders are too tight, you can also place your arms at your sides.
Great for: Tight shoulders, releasing tension in your neck, and stretching your back
7. Bear Hug
Beginning with arms stretched wide, wrap your arms around yourself like you are giving yourself a hug. Grasp your shoulders and pull to deepen the stretch. Breathe in this pose for at least 30 seconds. Then release, stretch your arms wide, and switch which arm is on top.
Great For: Your shoulders, rhomboids, trapezius muscles, and arms. You can also use this pose to mentally give a little self-love.
8. Legs Up the Wall
Lay on your side with your legs along the wall. Slowly roll onto your back, and lift your legs so they extend vertically up the wall. Release all tension in your hips and breathe. This pose it most effective when done for at least a few minutes, and up to 15 minutes at a time. You can also put a pillow or cushion under your hips for more support.
Great for: Improving circulation in tired, aching, or restless legs, or aiding in digestive issues. This is a great stretch to do to relax at the end of your stretching routine.